Another title bout is heading to San Francisco

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Bernhard Langer may not be a big baseball fan, but he will enter the season finale with a closer's mentality.
November 03, 2010
Art Spander, Special to PGATOUR.COM

SAN FRANCISCO -- A great few days for the city by the bay. The Giants finally won a World Series, washing away 52 years of disappointment in sprays of Mumm's Napa sparkling wine.


Now after their champion's tour comes the PGA's Champions Tour, with the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.

Baseball's year-ender, and what a year it had been, leads immediately to the Champions Tour year-end event. And with Bernard Langer and a rookie named Fred Couples at Nos. 1 and 2 in the points standings, there's still a lot to play for.

"I don't know if we vote for Player if the Year, but obviously I'm voting for him,'' Couples said Wednesday, referring to Langer. "But you know, next year I have another shot.''

He's had some very fine shots in 2010, his rookie season, winning four times. And maybe more than anyone else in the field of the Schwab Cup Championship, which starts Thursday, Couples knows TPC Harding Park where the event has been moved after seven years up in Sonoma, some 60 miles north.

Harding is public course across a reservoir from the Olympic Club, a course as Couples said reminds him of the muni where he learned to play as kid in Seattle.

Couples competed in the American Express at Harding in 2005, when Tiger Woods beat John Daly in a playoff, then was captain of the United States squad in the 2009 Presidents Cup at Harding.

"I love the course,'' he said.

Fred is Fred, given to off-the-cuff commentary. To overtake Langer, and earn the $1 million annuity, Couples would need to win the tournament while Langer finishes no better than a two-way tie for fourth.

"Well,'' allowed Couples, "I haven't really worried about it all year up until this week, because there are not any more weeks after this. I think I'm in pretty good shape. I did not know until my friend told me there is a second place annuity ($500,000) here. So I'm all for that. I can't lose no matter what.''

Russ Cochran is a distant third in points, narrowly ahead of John Cook and Fred Funk. Tom Lehman, in sixth overall, is barely ahead of Mark O'Meara.

Couples, 50, played with Charles Schwab, the broker and the sponsor of the Charles Schwab Cup, in the Wednesday pro-am. Whether that's a good sign or not doesn't matter as much to Fred as the fact the event is being played.

A sports fan, Couples was hardly oblivious to the Giants ending their half-century of silence on Monday night, winning the Series at Texas, and then San Francisco celebrating with a huge parade on Wednesday.

"We went out and walked around Monday and saw everybody screaming and yelling,'' said Couples, who said he had a ticket for Game 6, which would have been played Wednesday night at AT&T Park. Had the Series not ended in five games.

"It's a great week to be here. How lucky we are that the Giants just won the World Series, and we're here. I was laughing with the amateurs today. I told them, 'If you guys made the choice and said, I don't want to play with that guy, I want to go to the parade,' I would have been right with them.''

Couples did remind that Giants pitching hero Tim Lincecum is also from Seattle. Those Washington state kids certainly have the touch, with a slider or with a driver.

Langer, 53, has won five tournaments in 2010 including back-to- back majors, the Senior British Open and the U.S. Senior Open. Since he tops the Schwab Cup standings his caddie, Terry Holt, gets the yellow bib.

"I call it a jersey," chuckled Langer, a reference to the Maillot Jaune, or yellow jersey worn by the daily leader of the Tour de France.

Like Couples, the German-born Langer, is a former Masters champion, a two-time former Masters champion. Unlike Couples, Langer looks like someone working very hard on the course, someone who cares more than Fred.

"It might come over that way to (the media) or to the public,'' Langer said in response, "but I think deep down Freddie is trying as hard as I am. He really cares, even though he might seem nonchalant, like it doesn't matter. But it does matter to him. Otherwise he wouldn't be a champion.''

What doesn't matter to Langer, even though he's married to an American, even though he's spent years playing in the United States, is baseball, and the World Series and -- forgive him -- the Giants.

"Not even in my top 15,'' Langer conceded about our the American National Pastime. "I'm the wrong guy to ask. Not even on my radar screen. It's just one sport I never really took a liking to, and I'm a sports fanatic.''